Inspired by airlines that have long since found success tapping into the ultra low cost model already in major cities around the globe, Kelowna-based Flair Airlines has plans to change the aviation industry in this country—and they’re looking for support from the Okanagan to do it.
“We are asking Kelowna to rally,” said Jim Scott, president and Chief Executive Officer of Flair Airline.
Not too many small communities get an airline based in their town, said Scott, who added that he hopes the community arrives at the conclusion that Flair is the only way to fly out of the Okanagan.
The airline, which currently flies out of Kelowna on daily trips to Edmonton and four days a week to Vancouver, offers cheap fares but few frills.
“There are no lounges, no giveaways—you buy a seat and a seat belt and everything else costs money,” said Scott. “We have extra leg room at the front, and vendors with brand name products you can buy…but the base price is very low.”
Research has found that it’s just what Milennials are looking for.
“As long as they have their device, a seat and it’s cheap and on time they’re happy,” he said.
To meet shifting expectations for communication, Flair Airlines website and apps are under construction. They will offer a new level of connectivity. And in the next six months they’re working on lowering their prices, so when a competitor tries to enter their corner of the market, they will be ready.
“How all airlines work is, if you want to fill extra seats you lower your price,” he said.
If we go into the market and we lower our prices they will put some inventory in, but they won’t put the whole plane at that rate. They look very competitive, but it’s called yielding up. What you get from the customer increases as there is less capacity on the airplane. We always want to ride below what they are charging—that’s our mantra.”
They also want to offer that low price-point with the best customer service.
“If they do price match, we want to have such great customer service that (people) choose our brand,” he said.
“We have a young team that’s used to doing charters…these are not the people who have long since decided they don’t want the job but they are stuck in it.”
Once the customer loyalty has been built the sky is the limit for the airline, as has been shown in other areas.
In Asia ultra low cost flying went from a very small percentage of the aviation industry to almost 50 per cent, and in Europe it’s been going for years. The US has three low cost airlines.
“In a healthy market, 15 per cent of your flying should be at a discount, but if it’s not, a certain number of people (because of) price barrier will not fly,” he said. “In Canada that’s estimated to be 10 million trips per year that are not being flown. That means there’s a market for an airline with at least 60 jets across Canada, to service that market and that’s what our intent is.”
That ambition should also aid Kelowna, he said, comparing it to Vegas.
It’s one of the few locations in North America where people want to go for a mini break, due to its reliable weather.
“If you have low prices how do you stimulate the market and have a market that can be stimulated?” he said, noting Kelowna is a market that can be stimulated and if it is, it’s bound to help the job market.
“For every 1,000 passengers who come in it creates 3.3 jobs,” said Scott. “Every plane that touches down is a job creator. We would like to draw people in from the US. There are 300 million people down there and with the US exchange … there’s skiing and the sun. Good value for them.”